Monday, December 24, 2012

Race season is underway

The 2012/2013 race season is off to a slow start here in Alaska, due in part to poor snow conditions and in part to cold temperatures.  Here in the interior, the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association had to cancel our early season fun run, the Two Rivers Tuneup, because there wasn't enough snow.  We finally got a nice dumping right before the Solstice 100 but the temperature plummeted immediately afterwards and we could not in good conscience ask our trail crew to risk their safety and their equipment to put in a trail.  Yes, it was that cold.

In other locations around Alaska, the Sheep Mountain 150 was cancelled because of poor snow.  Fortunately races in the Mat-Su Valley the last two weekends were able to come off (the Alaska Excursions 120 and the Aurora 50/50).  The first really big-deal race, the Top of the World 350, is this coming weekend, with a fascinating format and an extraordinary field of teams.  I'm going down for the start, and hope to be able to grab some video of their mass start.  They'll have a fun run up the Taylor Highway from Tok to Eagle, have a potlatch in Eagle, and then race back to Tok.  The race is to honor the memory of Chief Isaac Juneby and promises to be a really special event.  They won't have trackers on the dogsleds this year but it's my understanding that Scott Chesney will be travelling the trail on a snow machine, so we can look forward to some outstanding photographs and video.

A couple of things have come up that I'll be writing about when I get a bit more free time.  One is that Trackleaders has added some new features that we'll be exploring, including a replay button to allow you to replay races.  It promises to be an interesting tool.  I'm hoping that they'll beef up the race flow chart but so far it appears to be much like last year's.  It's a fantastic tool for understanding the race being tracked and I hope it gets built out a little bit.  (I also think that IonEarth, the folks who track Iditarod, should look at Trackleaders' software and learn a thing or two about data presentation - their software is absolutely primitive by comparison).

Another thing that's come up and is enormously interesting (to me, anyway - it's likely to be a yawner for a lot of people) is that there are questions about last year's Yukon Quest corrected run times.  I haven't taken it apart quite yet but it looks like there are some problems leading to nonsensical numbers.  Note that this has absolutely no impact on the outcome of the race, but it's a puzzler and I'll be looking at it when I get a chance.

Here's looking forward to another great season of dogsled racing.

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